Sports Medicine is a specific branch of medicine that deals with the prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries. It also involves the application of scientific study methods to optimize health and athletic performance.
Increased participation in sporting activities by amateurs (or so-called “weekend warriors”) has resulted in the need to not only prevent and treat sports injuries, but to advance the scientific knowledge of the limits of human exercise performance and the causes of fatigue. Moreover, with increased training levels and specialization across the spectrum of recreational sports, there has been a parallel increase in career opportunities to support the care and training of athletes and physically active individuals, one of those being in the arena of sports medicine.
The Scope of Sports Medicine
Sports Medicine is practiced by specialized physicians who choose to pursue a residency in sports and exercise medicine after medical school. The residency involves extensive study of the musculoskeletal system as their practice will focus on muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bone conditions. In the course of their studies, an emphasis is also placed on chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma that can influence an athlete’s performance.
Branches of Sports Medicine
Just like all other medical branches, Sports Medicine has a long list of subspecialties that serve to bridge the gap between the academic disciplines of medicine and physical education. Although most people connect Sports Medicine only to orthopedics, several other medical specialties can be of great value in this field.
Medical physicians practicing pediatrics or internal medicine sometimes join the Sports Medicine industry by becoming team physicians. Obviously, participating in sports can be risky and there is always a chance an athlete can sustain an injury anywhere in the body. For example, athletes risk head injuries that can result in concussions that may require a neurological consultation. An eye injury may require an ophthalmic consult, and so on. Several other professions round out the sports medicine industry, including sports nutritionists, sports psychologists, and sports podiatrists.
The Relationship Between Sports Medicine and Health
There is a very close link between physical activity and the general health of an individual. Several studies have shown that physical activity reduces the risk of getting chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Aside from that, physical activities lead to cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, agility, and body composition, all of which are key to an athlete’s performance, professional or not.
The U.S. government has published guidelines supported by scientific research on the proper amount of exercise required by the average adult. These guidelines suggest that a person should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day (ie. jogging, light exercise, etc) in order to help prevent a wide range of illnesses including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), certain types of cancer, and depression.
Keeping You Fit and Healthy
In the end, sports medicine is a field of study designed to help people keep fit and healthy, as well as treat any injuries stemming from sports-related activities. As you can see, the combination of pain management, orthopedics and physical therapy all converge into one cohesive medical niche that has become more and more necessary over time.